by Richard Melnick
Charleston: The History Press, 2023. Pp. 224.
Illus., maps, notes, biblio. $23.99 paper. ISBN: 1467140953
Northwestern Queens in the American Revolution
Military operations during the Revolutionary War mostly took place in New Jersey or New York, however the ways in which those events affected the local people is mostly neglected, not maliciously, but rather because historians usually like to look at "greater" events, the stunning stuff that echoes down the ages, especially big battles. So this account of the experience of the people of northwestern Queens during the Revolutionary era, offers some welcome insights into how the war affected the people of northwestern Queens and what is now the New York metropolitan area.
Melnick, a former president of the Greater Astoria Historical Society and a licensed NYC tour guide, reaches back to Dutch times to cover the origins of the local communities. He then shows us how the inhabitants of Queens and elsewhere across what is now the New York City metropolitan area experienced the revolutionary turmoil that swept the colonies following the Seven Years' War, and how families became Tories or Patriots, the former prevailing among the landowning classes in lower New York. We get profiles of many people, some still well known, most long forgotten, military movements during the Battle of Brooklyn / Long Island and military operations in Manhattan, the impact of the protracted British, occupation, and the Patriot underground. Also examined are the existence of slavery in New York and the surprising extent of Toryism in the region, matters frequently "cancelled" in the furtherance of a more patriotic narrative.
Melnick gives us some good descriptions of the physical environment, homes, churches, and the like, as well as what survives and what doesn't, and why. An excellent book, this reviewer looks forward to a promised second volume, to cover subsequent events during the Revolution, including the loss of HMS Hussar and her cargo of gold.
Altogether a good book for those curious about how ordinary people coped with extraordinary events. Books such as this, written for younger readers, would likely spark their interest in history as a whole.
Note: Long Island City in 1776 is also available in e-editions.
StrategyPage reviews are published in cooperation with The New York Military Affairs Symposium